United Nation team begins work on missing persons
By: Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances Monday held a meeting with Amina Masood Janjua, chairperson of the Defence Human Rights Council, advising her to register the cases of over 700 missing persons with the global body.
The arrival of the working group also coincides with a new addition in the missing persons’ list as the family of Mian Azhar, a graduate of engineering university, filed a petition in the Lahore High Court Monday against his disappearance from Gujranwala district.
Given the hype created by the media and the purpose of the visit, the two-member visiting delegation has decided to remain low key in order to avoid unwanted attention amid serious security concerns.
As the working group is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of the government, many people wonder the logic behind this exercise at a time when the cases of enforced disappearances are on the rise throughout Pakistan.
According to a well-placed government official privy to the purpose of visit, Pakistan’s plan to contest for the membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a cause of motivation behind the government’s decision to invite them.
Earlier, the head of UN Human Rights Council and Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers visited Pakistan on the invitation of the government.
“We don’t want to hide anything. If we are wrong, then it must be corrected,” said a government official, adding the purpose of inviting such groups was to win the goodwill ahead of planned contest for the membership of UN Human Rights Council.
The working group’s meeting with Amina Masood Janjua was held in the federal capital on Monday. Amina’s husband has been missing since June 2005. She told them the hardships and distress the families of the victims are facing.
“I focused my discussion on the grief of the families and their living conditions,” Amina told The News later. “My children have grown up protesting on the roads for the recovery of their missing father,” she added.
“I have to concentrate on their education and wellbeing other than running the campaign for the recovery of my husband and other missing persons,” she told the UN working group. “No matter there is rain or sunshine, my husband remains in my head and heart,” Amina said.
“During biting cold, I wonder how my husband would be living and where he would have been kept. When I see or read about a torture incident, I think how my husband would have been treated.”
“We have been made roller coasters,” Amina told the working group. “There is everything in Pakistan, but the justice for the victims,” she explained. As Amina shared a list of over 700 missing persons reported to the Defence of Human Rights Commission, the delegates advised her to register these complaints with the working group.
Although the mandate of working group is to connect the victim families with the government and also urging the latter to take necessary measures for their recovery, it can not go beyond it, said Ahmer Bilal Sufi, a lawyer of international law who is also member of advisory group on the UN Human Rights Council.
But Ahmer explained that the report to be prepared by this working group at the close of its visit can certainly be used by the political opponents outside the country.While the visit of the working group had been making headlines for many weeks now, there is no let up in the practice of enforced disappearances.
As the visiting delegates were meeting Amina, a petition was being filed in the Lahore High Court about the disappearance of Mian Azhar, an engineering graduate from Noshera Virkan (Gujranwala). He was picked up on August 18, a day before Eidul Fitr, from his village, Badoorta. He together with his brother, Arshad, was called out of home for a ‘business’ meeting, bundled into a double-cabin vehicle and taken away. Arshad was later dumped far away from the hometown at Sheikhupura motorway interchange, but Azhar never returned. His father, a retired schoolteacher, established after discussion with different officials that his son had been picked by intelligence agencies.
The police was earlier reluctant to register an FIR that was done after several days hectic struggle, yet Azhar remains missing. His family is running from pillar to post to contact all the concerned to locate the whereabouts of their missing son, but in vain.